This week, we finally announce the 10 grantees supported under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise initiative, an endeavor that many of you have been following for almost two years. I’ve been waiting for this moment for many months, and I couldn’t be more excited to share the great work that the they are leading with you. My excitement is tempered by a heavy heart, however, as the potential that these grantees offer to dramatically improve outcomes for boys and young men of color is inextricably linked to the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death and the legal and public debates that have followed. What happened to Trayvon is a pressing reminder of why the work of Forward Promise grantees and partners is so critically important to advancing a new future of health and success for America’s young men of color. The need for sweeping change is clear, and the time for action is now.
RWJF’s Forward Promise grantees build on the growing momentum to rewrite the narrative for our young men, so that they are prized as assets in their communities and lead healthy, successful, fulfilling lives.
I hope you’ll agree that each of the 10 organizations we are supporting are on the leading edge of promoting the health and well-being of boys and young men of color. From Anchorage to Baltimore, the Foundation is investing in best practices and successful models with strong potential for growth and replication. Their efforts reflect both the diversity of our nation and the diversity of approaches to improving education, employment, and health outcomes in this population. Meet the grantees now.
In other news, the second annual Gathering of Leaders took place last month in Detroit and brought together leading practitioners, scholars, policy-makers, funders, media professionals, and advocates for ongoing information sharing and strategy development. I’m excited that support for the event has grown to include new foundation partners and that it encompasses a vibrant diversity of populations, issues and perspectives. Collectively, we are shaping an agenda that is responsive to the needs of young men of color and will help them realize their full potential as leaders within their communities.
As we venture forward, a key priority is to build the will for needed policy change that supports boys and young men of color. Forward Promise grantees and partners are making the case for the incredible potential that young men of color represent and elevating those solutions that we know exist to address the unique challenges they face. We are pleased to announce a new grant to the Center for Law and Social Policy to promote federal, state, and local policies that yield sustainable gains for young men of color and remove systemic barriers to their success and well-being.
- Last month, Tonya Allen and I wrote a guest commentary about helping youth fulfill their dreams for the Detroit Free Press. The story we shared about college-bound Stepha’N Quicksey is one of many transformations resulting from the efforts of both the young men themselves and the role that community members and organizations play in helping them beat the odds.
- Nationwide, the commitment to action around issues facing young men of color is growing. In April, RWJF joined twenty-five other philanthropies in a pledge to see that Stepha’N and others realize their potential to lead successful and healthy lives. You can read the full pledge here.
- Last week, the Foundation’s partner organization, the Leadership & Sustainability Institute for Black Male Achievement (LSI), announced its Social Innovation Accelerators. The Accelerators showcase what efforts work to improve the life outcomes of Black men and boys and have tangible results.
- Lastly, the Forward Promise online forum closed down at the end of May. You can still find me (@mzsimmons) and others in the young men of color field on Twitter - use hashtags #ForwardPromise and #malesofcolor.
Maisha Simmons, program officer